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I am a Ukrainian nationalist ideologically. That’s a good thing. Practically, I am intrusive and prone to quick action rather than lengthy deliberation. My friends say I’m effective, others insist that I’m annoying. Since I am no longer young I have become even more stubborn because of experience irrespective of many mistakes. When I am told that you were wrong, I laugh because I have been wrong so many times. As long as no one gets seriously hurt, being wrong is neither a crime nor a sin.

No one will say that I am calm or at ease and that is why I sometimes avail myself of natural calming aids. My method of choice involves moderate imbibing of what I call Ukrainian white, cold as ice. This choice is one’s own taste preference and honed with patriotism. Another drink does not suit me and I will debate with anyone that there is a finer drink than Ukrainian horilka..

The war imposed upon me several tasks to help Ukraine, providing vests, helmets, bedding and ambulances for the Ukrainian fighters, monitoring compliance with economic sanctions including my own version of compliance by making sure that people in America do not have the opportunity to buy Russian vodka. In my free so-called leisure time and I have much since I am retired and spend my time mostly reading and writing, I frequented five liquor outlets in my neighbourhood, essentially persuading or persecuting the proprietors to stop the sale of Russian vodka.

In this instance my approach was relatively provocative. I arrived at each store, asked to see their stock of Cognac XO, picked up the most expensive bottle, and as I approached the cash register, alerted the person assisting me that I wanted to see their stock of Vodka. Invariably I noticed more than one brand of Russian vodka. Thereupon I stammered and stated that I would not be comfortable purchasing the XO because they were selling vodka manufactured by a country that is murdering innocent civilians including children. In Ukraine. At that point I left the store.

I returned to each store a week later. I don’t know how many prospective customers made similar remarks while refusing to complete their purchase, but in three of the five stores the policy had changed. On the shelves of three outlets, there were no Russian products, except Stolichnaya but with a conspicuous sign that it was distilled and bottled in Latvia. Fortunately no one asked about the XO.

Obviously, as per the above description of myself, my predilection is not to trust anyone. I had to investigate on my own. Indeed Stolichnaya is now the property of a private firm, distilled and bottled in Latvia. Soon it will be renamed simply Stoli, as it has been called in the West for many years.

Additionally in one of the outlets, there was yet another conspicuous sign. Next to a vodka named Rusalka, the sign read, distilled and bottled in Ukraine. Hastily I picked up the larger 1.75 litre bottle since we are expecting guests for Easter and made for the cash register. Only later, at home, when I put on my glasses, I read the back of the bottle. To my dismay, it was read, distilled and bottled in Belarus. Well I was livid as I have no intention of supporting Putin’s ally.

First thing the following morning (there was an annoying wait as I get up at 5AM but liquor outlets in New Jersey open at 9AM) I took the Rusalka and stormed into the liquor outlet. Fortunately, I do not use obscenities, so my attack upon the manager was somewhat subdued and acceptable. He took my best shot and the bottle, calmly walked over to the Vodka section and pointed out that the sign was next to the Rusalka litre bottles, not the 1.75 litre. He handed the litre to me, I put on my glasses as this time I came equipped and read the inscription on the back: distilled and bottled in Ukraine. I was shocked but filled with gratitude that this outlet had sympathised with the Ukrainian cause, I picked up a second litre immediately, the manager and I walked to the cash register and made the appropriate financial adjustment.

As I was leaving I asked whether he could explain this bizarre situation. He replied that he could not, but promised to remove the bottles from Belarus. I cannot figure it out.

It has been surmised that Russia’s main weapon aside from its weapons of mass destruction is propaganda and disinformation. One has to marvel how many people and nations Russia fools with its disinformation. But its most supportive ally is greed, including that of Western companies. As the war drags on it is anticipated that German automobile companies may return to Russia as early as May. The Irish professional service firm Accenture has left Russia, but in fact it has simply sold its Russian operations to its Russian affiliate. We need to be reminded that in the past, Google and Apple have worked closely with Putin against his opposition in Russia in the election to the Russian Duma. Russian intelligence has a nefarious history of spying on people. This was done by the Finnish company Nokia, which has removed itself from Russia but has left its equipment both hard and soft. Russia continues to spy via Nokia. Finland wants to join NATO now because it fears Russia. How’s that for irony!

Politicians are equally duplicitous. When Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was recuperating in Germany. after his poisoning by Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited him in the hospital. At the same time, she was conspiring with Putin to construct Nord Stream 2. During the current war, Europe has imposed economic sanctions against Russia but continues to feed the Russian economy by purchasing Russian energy in the amount of 35-50 billion euros over that span. European sanctions have been reduced to zero and in effect the Europeans have been paying the cost of Russia’s war. .

Ukraine is grateful to the West for its rhetoric, economic sanctions, and military assistance. However, what is really needed is some sincerity. Sincerity in politics and business – what a concept!

April 14, 2022                                                               Askold S. Lozynskyj

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